Data-driven automated maintenance
For a 100-year-old Midwestern plant that produces high-performance race car tires, changing from a reactive maintenance program to a preventive maintenance (PM) program was where the rubber met the road.
With assets ranging from 20 to 80 years old, breakdown work orders outnumbered planned maintenance work orders by a large margin. Because the facility manufactures expensive race car tires, shifting toward a preventive strategy could help eliminate the friction.
To cure rubber, the facility relies on eight pumps to deliver hot water to a bag that heats up the rubber in the tire mold. There are four horizontal, single-suction, centrifugal pumps operational at all times; the other four are required backups that can be swapped in for scheduled maintenance or if an unexpected pump failure occurs.
The plant’s engineering team used computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) for creating work orders and an asset taxonomy. They had yet to fully embrace using the software system, along with a wireless infrared camera and a vibration meter, for PM schedules. Before the CMMS implementation, the team used a paper-based filing system to track work orders, in which the documents were supposed to be moved from an “in” folder to an “out” folder to signal when a work order had been completed. This cumbersome clipboard system needed some tweaks.
The team’s objectives were to move away from the paper-based system by:
Piloting the new CMMS
Developing a proactive view into equipment health
Setting up inspection routes to guide the future state of maintenance monitoring and routine data collection.
The goal was to rebalance the team’s prioritization so that planned and predictive maintenance were carried out consistently with the data from those operations given room to influence the larger strategy moving forward. The ideal would be to have predictive inspection data co-located in the CMMS asset logs, and any readings that exceeded thresholds would trigger a work order for an escalated inspection.
Combining your tools
The transition from a run-to-fail maintenance strategy to one that champions condition-based monitoring for PM requires some operational changes, both procedural and human.
Condition monitoring programs and preventive approaches to maintaining machines can unite a CMMS with high-performance measurement and diagnostic tools and external sensors, which monitor everything from vibration in motors and pumps to current in electrical panels. With the CMMS and measurement-collecting sensors and handheld tools, the team gained key insights into equipment health via vibration analysis and infrared inspection.
The CMMS provided a solution for eliminating the paper-based system. Team members could use the software for work requests, projects, and work orders to reduce reactive repairs, ensure that critical work orders were completed on time, and reduce wasted hours and maintenance efforts, which would lead to increased annual savings.
The success of applying a PM-mindset depends on incentivizing workers, who often are bound to their specializations, to consider troubleshooting and reliability as primary objectives while following new inspection routes. The implementation team must understand that maintenance and operation staff often are both busy and comfortable in their day-to-day roles. It is important to train employees to capture baseline data and continue making inspections to understand and maintain equipment health, as needed.
Capture equipment health data
At first, bridging the gap between hands-on inspections and CMMS can be a bit tedious. Creating route plans from scratch, for example, can be quite difficult. The chosen CMMS includes features to improve end users’ visibility into maintenance planning and scheduling. The goal is to make facilities more efficient. With PM in mind, the rubber plant established vibration and infrared inspection routes—coordinated with condition monitoring sensors—for its water pumps, as well as repair schedules and best practices with clearly defined instructions.
Current, power, and temperature sensors were set up on the for-data capture. Current sensors also were attached to the electrical panel connected to the hydraulic pumps, which in turn control the rollers, cooling tower, and lube pumps. In the pump room, two temperature sensors were fitted to both the motor casing and bearing casing. Using both locations allowed the team to better identify if the issue originates on the motor or in the bearings. These sensors collected measurements that were added to the CMMS.
When connected using WiFi, MiFi, or Ethernet cable, the temperature sensor data enabled workers to constantly monitor equipment performance. Vibration spectra data also was collected with a vibration meter and then added to an Excel spreadsheet, which could be imported with the CMMS’s data import tool.
An infrared camera, which for years sat on a shelf unused, became the go-to tool for performing the thermal inspection route, which moved beyond the pump room into a mill room. Workers reported increased temperatures, resulting in scorched rubber, and the inspector was able to capture key details with a thermal imaging camera.
When setting up equipment hierarchy, workers nested their PM route schedules using the CMMS’s nesting feature, which allows users to group tasks and subtasks. The maintenance specialist identified and corrected two issues with the help of vibration data and thermal imaging.
Steps to change the culture
In the mill room, an infrared camera image indicated a situation in which water was supposed to be flowing at a temperature of 330°F to a press. However, the resistance temperature detector (RTD) was reading 307°F—a difference substantial enough to cause concern. The maintenance team thought that the RTD calibration was off, but the thermal imager detected a temperature of just about 307°F at the same spot.
The team then used it to examine the entire length of the pipe and concluded that a valve was either not fully opened or some debris had entered and blocked it. Once the blockage was removed, the temperature measurement returned to normal levels.
Before the vibration meter was used, the engineering team would outsource vibration monitoring and analysis to a third-party contractor. With vibration readings taken, a junior engineer was able to find degradation in a compressor during the course of a month, which aligned with their planned maintenance schedule for that machine.
In another case, upstream issues were impacting the flow to two of the fill water pumps and vibration readings again captured the change in machine health, in one case enabling the team to prevent more than 18 hours of downtime. In the case of thermal imaging and vibration, the alignment between the data and the schedule increased the team’s confidence in the technology.
The benefits of shifting from a reactive to proactive mindset were identified instantly by the maintenance supervisor. No longer would he receive random phone calls at night for scheduling and assigning repairs to technicians or experience extended downtime for incidents that could have been prevented if the crew had been notified in time. The ability to receive alerts for equipment status, such as temperature measurements, allows the maintenance team to fix a pump before it breaks down entirely and thus needs replacing.
Through this pilot program, the engineering team took the first steps toward cultural change. They successfully implemented a PM strategy and now own the right CMMS and wireless tools to reduce cost and continue to compete in the future.
A route to vibration monitoring
Automating your vibration monitoring system is an important step to having a better understanding of overall equipment health. Creating a path to that process requires a step-by-step approach to help ensure success.
The best steps forward are:
Follow all safety and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.
Identify assets, both in use and on standby.
Mark the ideal position (with an “x” made from yellow painting tape, for example) and time of a day for taking measurements, depending on the job of the asset.
Take vibration measurements with a vibration meter.
Collect data via a smartphone or an Android tablet using the app supplied by the vibration meter and thermal imager.
After making sure the route is workable, create a PM schedule in the CMMS and set the interval (daily, weekly, or monthly). Start off with daily intervals when establishing a baseline of data for assets, create step-by-step instructions for the inspection route, ensuring that knowledge is passed to others for completing future vibration inspections, and create a work order (to be automated in the future) for instances in which specific tasks were not completed or if other inspection problems occurred.
Also include in the instructions such information as: where to place the vibration meter probe based on the yellow “x” on each asset, how to use the meter, how to collect data from the meter, and what to do if the data is unsatisfactory.
Alex Desselle is a product application specialist with Fluke Digital Systems and Accelix, a Fluke platform.